Calling For Help: Alerting Others You Are In Trouble

Calling For Help: Alerting Others You Are In Trouble

Calling for help seems like it would be one of the most basic, natural things one could do. You scream bloody murder and the cavalry comes running to your rescue, right? The truth of the matter is, there’s a good chance no one will hear you, and if they do, they won’t help you. Most people will not want to intervene in a violent situation, or may simply assume someone else will help.

Know Your Surroundings

Always know your surroundings. Know the address of where you are at, whether or not you have a cell phone signal, and who is around you. Do not allow yourself to be in a position where you do not have an avenue of escape. Know the quickest way to get to the safety of others, or at least to a vantage point where your calls for help may be heard.

Alerting Those Within Earshot

There is absolutely no guarantee anyone will hear your call for help. You must accept this fact. Take responsibility for your own protection at all times. If you carry a weapon, have it with you at all times. Never let your guard down. Here are a few things you can do to make your call for help effective and draw attention to yourself.

  • Yell Fire: Most people would welcome the opportunity to be a hero and pull someone out of a burning building. On the other hand, not many people will engage a burly male assaulting his girlfriend. Very few people will run to what they perceive as a violent situation. Do no yell rape or anything of that nature. Keep it simple, yell fire!
  • Break Glass: Nothing alerts neighbors and others in the general vicinity more than breaking glass. People associate breaking glass with a “break-in.” Neighbors and neighborhood watch groups are trained to investigate and notify police. Know which objects are within reach that can be thrown through a window.
  • Scream: The idea is to make noise, and lots of it. Draw as much attention to yourself as possible. Scream and don’t stop.


Technology is never a sure bet and depends on a reliable connection on the sending and receiving end, as well as someone receiving the message and taking action on it. Where technology does have a valuable role is alerting others to situations that you’re just not sure about. Perhaps you think everything is okay but you just want others to know where you are at. Send someone a text message asking them to call and check in with you at a predetermined time. If no contact is made, they know where you are at and to get help.

Also, there are many apps that provide your location in real-time to those you designate. Apps even exist with “panic” buttons that will other alerts when activated. Just remember, the more technology introduced into your communication, the less reliable it will become.

Calling 911

Know how to effectively communicate with the dispatcher when calling 911. Stay calm and immediately communicate the essentials: location, description and details needed to help responding officers get to you immediately. Listen to the dispatcher and answer questions in a clear manner. Understand that while the dispatcher is communicating with you, help is also being routed to your location.

Introducing Your Attacker to an Unknown

Calling for help serves two purposes. First, it may alert others and get you help. But just as important, it throws a wrench into your attacker’s plans. Making noise and calling for help introduces an unknown. Just the fear of someone being alerted to the situation may be enough to force an attacker to flee.

Do Not Assume Help is Coming – Bystander Effect

We have seen videos of people being assaulted in public with bystanders simply walking by and not helping or calling for help. Unfortunately, this is a pretty regular occurrence.

  • Pluralistic Ignorance: Pluralistic ignorance is a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but incorrectly assume that most others accept it, and therefore go along with it. An example would be a group of people standing around watching an assault take place. Often times people are cheering, egging this on while recording everything for social media. If removed from the dynamics of the group, a lot of these people would act differently under similar circumstances.
  • Diffusion of Responsibility: This occurs when a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present. Considered a form of attribution, the individual assumes that others either are responsible for taking action or have already done so. Often times people will not call for help because they assume others have already done so.
  • More Likely to Record Than Help: The need for attention on social media has caused a lot of people to lose common sense. As hard as it is to believe, there are a lot of people who will use their cell phone to record what is happening for social media, as opposed to calling for help.

It would be nice if an answer to your call for help was guaranteed. It is not. However, with a little knowledge, you can increase the chances of being heard and having those who hear your call respond.


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2 thoughts on “Calling For Help: Alerting Others You Are In Trouble”

  1. Great article Dave. I like it that you suggest to yell “fire” and break glass. The explanation of typical bystander behavior is right on, and essential to keep in mind.

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